After years of lawmakers attempting to find solutions to the state’s underfunded pension problems, a group of Republican legislative candidates are hoping to institute a plan of their own.At a news conference today at the Capitol, the majority of Republican challengers in House and Senate races endorsed a plan to put new lawmakers into a 401k style pension system.The challengers say if elected their plan would be the first bill they jointly introduce. And they would include themselves in the new 401k plan.Republican House candidate Brian Linder says the new plan will also provide flexibility.“The plan would be portable to other places of employment and the plan would enable roll-in contributions from other 401k plan from previous employers. And the retiree health care will no longer be an option for legislative service,” Linder says.The plan will also allow incumbents to opt-in to the 401k plan as well as allow rollovers into and out of the new legislative plan.Some candidates at the announcement also expressed the desire to eliminate legislative pension altogether, but said instituting their plan for themselves was a better first step to solving the pension problems. Republican Senate candidate Chris McDaniel of Northern Kentucky says the plan is one step in the right direction.“We believe that while this is a small step, it’s an important first step for us to take toward eliminating the most predictable crisis in Kentucky’s history,” he says.
According to a list released this morning, retail giant Walmart leads U.S. companies in solar power installations. Walmart has 144 solar systems installed in seven states; as the report notes, the combined capacity of Walmart and Costco (number two on the list) is greater than all the solar capacity deployed in the state of Florida.According to the report, the only system in Kentucky is at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. But there are numerous installations on manufacturing sites in the area, in the corridor between Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus.The New York Times has an related story about how big-box chain stores are increasingly turning to solar power to control costs.Many of the chains began with a few installations about five years ago but have picked up the pace in recent years as the price of equipment has plummeted. The average price of a finished commercial photovoltaic system, for example, dropped by almost 14 percent between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, the report said.In addition, new financing approaches — in which third-party companies offer to install systems for little or no money upfront and instead take fixed payments for the electricity generated over a long-term agreement — has made solar even more attractive. Although the cost savings from these arrangements are not as great as for residential customers, the agreements insulate the companies against fluctuations in electricity costs, said Lyndon Rive, the chief executive of SolarCity, which provides solar products and services, and counts Walmart among its commercial customers, “When you look at renewables, there’s not a spiking of the fuel cost,” Mr. Rive said. “You’re locking your rates, which is a great hedge for a big percentage of your energy needs.”Here's the full list of the top twenty U.S. companies ranked by solar power usage, compiled by the Solar Energy Industries Association:Walmart: 65 MW, 7 states, 144 systemsCostco: 38.9 MW, 5 states, 62 systemsKohl’s: 36.5 MW, 10 states, 124 systemsIkea: 21.5 MW, 17 states, 31 systemsMacy’s: 16.1 MW, 4 states, 41 systemsMcGraw-Hill: 14.1 MW, 1 state, 2 systemsJohnson & Johnson: 11.6 MW, 2 states, 12 systemsStaples: 10.8 MW, 5 states, 35 systemsCampbell’s: 9.9 MW, 3 states, 3 systemsWalgreen’s: 8.1 MW, 6 states, 134 systemsBed Bath & Beyond: 7.5 MW, 1 state, 4 systemsToys R Us: 5.7 MW, 1 state, 4 systemsGM: 5.6 MW, 5 states, 13 systemsFedEx: 4.9 MW, 2 states, 5 systemsWhite Rose Food: 4.9 MW, 1 state, 1 systemDow Jones: 4.1 MW, 1 state, 1 systemSnyder’s of Hanover: 3.5 MW, 1 state, 1 systemPrologis: 3.5 MW, 1 state, 10 systemsHartz Mountain Industries: 3.4 MW, 1 state, 5 systemsCrayola: 3.4 MW, 1 state, 1 system
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., condemned the attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Libya that resulted in the murder of four American diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.The consulate in Benghazi was bombarded by a group of protestors who were furious over an amateur film released via YouTube that mocked Muhammad, Islam's founding prophet. According to reports, Stevens was leaving the building for a safer location when gunmen launched an attack.From McConnell's office:"These attacks remind us of the sacrifices made on a daily basis by foreign service officers, diplomatic security personnel, and our Marine Security Guards.I join my colleagues in strongly condemning the murder of these innocent Americans. And I support employing every available tool at our disposal to ensure the safety of Americans overseas and to hunt down those responsible for these attacks.Yesterday we commemorated the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, and today we are reminded that brave Americans serve us every day at the risk of their own lives. We honor the Americans we lost in Libya, and we will stand united in our response.Among the things we can all agree on in Washington is that attacks on the U.S. and its representatives will be met with resolve, and that America’s presence and defense of our national interests across the globe will not be deterred by the acts of violent extremists."According to U.S officials, as many as 200 Marines are being deployed to Libya to bolster security around the American embassy in Tripoli.
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has received a mostly positive review after a year on the job but won't receive a performance bonus. That word was made official by UK Board of Trustees Chair Britt Brockman. "We decided that he deserved a bonus for extraordinary performance. However, based upon the economy and discussions with the president, we both decided, mutually, that we wouldn’t award the bonus. And I think that speaks volumes to his personality and his character as well," Brockman said today. Brockman says Capilouto has done extraordinary work on facilities and undergraduate education. Board members and the campus community, however, did offer the new president some constructive criticism, particularly in the need for better communication during crises such as layoffs. Former West Virginia University President David Hardesty prepared the evaluation report and was paid $9,000 for the work.
After two decades in Louisville, the National Quartet Convention will move south in two years. What’s billed as the world’s largest gathering of Southern gospel musicians and fans will relocate to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in 2014. The convention’s executive director says in a release that economic realities are forcing the event to seek a smaller venue and a different setting to adjust to a shift in demographics. The 2012 National Quartet Convention is underway at the Kentucky Expo Center and is expected to draw about 40,000 people to Louisville, with an economic impact of nearly $8 million.
Louisville’s air pollution regulators say a company that stores whiskey in the city has violated its air permits. The Air Pollution Control District sent the notices of violation to Diageo late last week.In the citation, the Air Pollution Control District notes 27 complaints about a black mold growing on houses near Diageo’s whiskey warehouse on Millers Lane. The mold is whisky fungus, and APCD spokesman Tom Nord says the district has concluded that it’s scientifically proven that the fungus is caused by ethanol emissions.“We know what the problem is, we know why it’s happening,” Nord said. “It’s emissions from the warehouse causing this fungus to grow. It’s up to them to come up with a way to stop it, and that’s really what we’re after right now.The whiskey fungus is also the subject of a class action lawsuit that was filed in May against Diageo, Brown-Forman and Heaven Hill by Louisville lawyer Bill McMurry. McMurry says the lawsuit is still moving forward, but he’s encouraged by the notice of violation issued to Diageo.“Well it certainly gives our position great credibility when the regulatory authority in this county agrees with the science I’ve been preaching,” he said. “While it is true the Baudoinia fungus spore is ubiquitous in nature, it’s also invisible. It doesn’t bother anyone. It doesn’t cause any kind of nuisance. But when it is hit with ethanol, it is germinated, it comes to life and its living color is a black stain on your house.”In an emailed statement, Diageo spokeswoman Brook Lawer wrote:“We are a longstanding member of the community and take these allegations very seriously. We have requested the incident reports related to the APCD notice and will review them closely. As we have stated previously, the appearance of a black substance on some buildings and structures is due to a naturally occurring common mold that is found widely in the environment, including areas not related to whiskey production.”Another violation addresses odor issues near Diageo's warehouse.Nord says the Air Pollution Control District is still investigating several other complaints about whiskey fungus near warehouses owned by other companies. He says there’s a possibility Diageo could be fined for the violations, but the district’s first priority is to bring the company into compliance. Diageo has until November 3 to do that.
The University of Louisville will hold a conference on green infrastructure later this week. It’s meant to explore innovative ways to manage stormwater. Stormwater experts are usually quick to point out there are two ways to manage water runoff and prevent floods—with concrete infrastructure like collecting basins and pipes, or with green infrastructure like rain gardens and green roofs.Thursday’s conference will address the latter, and will look at what public and private entities in Louisville have done so far, and what innovations are possible in the future.Russ Barnett is the director of the U of L’s Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development.“I think we’ll be surprised just how much we’ve done here in Louisville and I think we’ll be surprised that there’s a lot of new ideas that are coming out.”The day-long conference will include sessions on what green infrastructure projects are in the works in Louisville and around the world, as well as a discussion on the barriers to green infrastructure. It begins Thursday at 9:00; tickets are $25 at the door, and the cost includes lunch. For more information, click here.
The childhood home of boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been purchased by a Las Vegas real estate investor.Last month, the single-story home in west Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood where Ali grew up was put up for sale. State lawmakers and Metro Council members had recently held a ceremony placing a historical marker in front of the house.Jared Weiss is president and CEO of Motion Properties, and bought the home earlier this week for $70,000.In a telephone interview with WFPL News, Weiss says he is a lifelong fan of Ali and wants to restore the home to honor the former heavyweight-boxing champion."Right now my options are open. I’d probably speak with the city and see what they think I could do with the property possibly. I’d like to refurbish it maybe back to the original look it had in the 1950s when he was growing up in it," he says. "Possibly a museum, but right now the options are open. But it’s definitely going to be part of the legacy for Muhammad Ali."In recent years the city has embraced Ali's legacy and The Muhammad Ali Center has become a top tourist attraction as well as an education center in downtown. In a statement, Ali Center president and CEO Donald Lassere said the museum is pleased that an Ali fan purchased the property and hopes to give Weiss a tour.Mayor Greg Fischer has said he hopes the home will be preserved as part of a larger tourist attraction, and that he is willing to help Weiss with the project."I am delighted that a fan of the champ is in control of the home and the city looks forward to helping make this residence a place that spreads the message of Muhammad Ali's legacy," he says. "We are proud to be the home of the "Louisville Lip."The house is in serious disrepair, and is located in an area hit especially hard by vacant and abandoned properties. It was valued at just $23,000 by the Jefferson County Property Value Administration when initially put up for sale.But Weiss says he will not turn the home into a rental property, and wants Ali and local residents to be proud of whatever is done with it."There's this boyhood home he grew up in, and to see the place where his values were instilled and to keep and preserve that and to make sure that’s there for history," he says. "He is one of the most influential people in the world right now. And I think it’s important that it’s recognized and kept in the annals of history."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is spending two days on the Purdue University campus this week meeting with faculty members ahead of becoming the school's president in January. Daniels is taking part in forums through Wednesday on the West Lafayette campus with professors and others from eight of Purdue's colleges. Meetings with other colleges are planned for October, according to the West Lafayette Journal and Courier. University Senate chairman Paul Robinson says faculty members must take advantage of their access to Daniels before he takes over. Robinson says he believes Daniels is making a strong attempt at being open-minded as he learns more about Purdue. Some Purdue students and professors have complained about Daniels' lack of an academic background.
Several area leaders are marking the eleventh anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, but overall the commemorations are taking a less political tone than in year's past.In Washington, D.C., congressional Democrats and Republicans plan to stand outside the Capitol for a moment of silence in an act of bipartisanship. At ground zero in New York City, the family members of the victims are reading their loved ones names, but no elected officials were included in the ceremony.In a statement, Congressman John Yarmuth says Americans should seek to learn that facing the country's problems requires a transcendence of politics.From Yarmuth's office:"Eleven years ago, terrorists attacked our nation and killed thousands of our fellow Americans. Today, we remember their lives. We grieve with their families and loved ones. And we reflect on the national unity that arose from the ruin of that calamitous day, reminded of our shared purpose: to keep our country safe and to preserve the values that shape our national character.September 11, 2001, forever changed the way we respond in times of crisis. Today, we also honor every first responder — every police officer, firefighter, EMT, construction worker, and volunteer — whose bravery in the face of catastrophe left us all humbled and proud. And we honor the brave men and women of our military and intelligence community, who answered the call 11 years ago and continue to spend every day protecting our nation from harm.As we look forward to meet the challenges of the future, we should seek to draw new lessons from our past. We will never forget the unimaginable horror and tragedy of the attacks of September 11, 2001. But we must also remember that solving the problems our nation faces requires a commitment that transcends politics, one that demands something more from each and every one of us."Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also released a statement, alluding to the country's initial response of strength and unity in the face of chaos and confusion.From McConnell's office:"More than a decade later, most of us still remember 9/11 like it was yesterday: the initial confusion, the horrifying realization of what was happening, the watching, the waiting, the grief, the anger, the resolve.And we remember how worried some people were about what the attacks would do to America. Would it weaken us in the world? Would it weaken us at home? Would we stand up? Would we shrink?Well, 11 years later we can say with certainty and pride that 9/11 didn’t reveal the weakness of America. It revealed the greatness of America. We didn’t have to wait long to see it.In the first moments after the attacks, we saw the courage of the first responders. In the days and weeks that followed, we saw the goodness and generosity of the volunteers who descended on New York. As the months turned into years, monuments were dedicated, mighty buildings rose again at the World Trade Center site, and of course we’ve all watched with admiration and gratitude as so many have stepped forward since the 9/11 attacks to serve in the armed forces and in our intelligence community.We honor them today too. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, America is a safer place, many who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks have been killed or captured. Many of those who harbored them are on the run. And across the globe, there is little doubt today that ours is the greatest fighting force the world has even known.Out of a great evil, we have seen greatness and goodness from our country and our countrymen. And that’s why we can now mark this solemn anniversary not simply with pain sorrow but with a renewed pride in our nation, and an unbending confidence in the resilience and the goodness of its people.In her darkest hours, America always summoned the courage and the strength to persevere and to prevail. We now know that 9/11 was no different. And here’s why — because, as Americans, we believe that every person counts. That’s why we’re still haunted by the faces of those who died, by the hopes and dreams that were extinguished, by the families and friendships that were shattered on that crisp September morning 11 years ago. And that’s why we are still determined to vindicate their lives. In remembering those we lost on 9/11, we testify to our shared belief that each and every one of them was irreplaceable. We renew our commitment to live lives worthy of their memory. And we pledge, once again, to do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe from those who still wish to do us harm."For the most part, ceremonies surrounding 9/11 have been low-key amid a divisive presidential election year.But there is very little public discussion about the use of aerial drones and torture, the ongoing war and unaccomplished mission in Afghanistan, the recent killing of al Qaeda's No. 2 leader in Yemen or a debate about civil liberties since the terror attacks.
Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that Metro Hall will host a rotating series of art exhibits curated by local artists. The Rotunda Art Project is part of the mayor's on-going efforts to make Metro Hall (601. W. Jefferson St.) a community gathering place. The first show, "You are here," was curated by The Ground Floor Gallery and features four Louisville artists. Work by Jacob Heustis, Bryce Hudson, Sarah Lyon and Carlos Gamez de Francisco will be on display through November 1. The free exhibit is open during Metro Hall public hours, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Security check and a photo ID are required to enter.
A conference for information security professionals and enthusiasts returns to Louisville at the end of the month. DerbyCon is a four day event that will feature lectures by information and security experts as well as training courses for those who wish to hone their skills.Organizer Adrian Crenshaw says the conference grew out of a series of classes he helped put together with co-founders Martin Bos and David Kennedy. The classes were very popular and the group decided to try to put together a conference.“We started thinking, if we can get this many people to come to Louisville, Kentucky for this one short class, I wonder if we can put on a conference,” Crenshaw said.He says the first step was contacting friends in the security industry.“Dave Kennedy, luckily, knows a lot of people in the security industry, and was able to pull in some favors and get some big names like Kevin Mitnick, HD Moore, and Paul Asadoorian to show up,” he said.The conference features a four track structure, with hour-long presentations on various aspects of the security industry running concurrently. A broad range of topics include penetration testing, social engineering, and current trends in computer law.Louisville’s LVL1 will provide a hardware hacking village where novice participants can get hands on experience with soldering kit projects. Other attractions include a wireless village, hacker movie marathon, lockpick village, and a game of capture the flag that will run throughout the weekend of the conference.Tickets are currently sold out, though there are rumors on Twitter that 70 more tickets will be released on Friday. The conference will be held downtown at the Hyatt Regency Hotel September 27th – 30th. More information is available at www.derbycon.com.
The two-party system may dominate politics, but Kentuckians will still have a host of options when it comes to voting for a presidential candidate this fall.In addition to the two major party candidates, two other political parties have qualified their candidates in Kentucky.The Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein will join well-known candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama on the ballot.Also listed will be at least three other write-in slates and Independent candidate Randall Terry of West Virginia.Deadlines for party candidates to qualify for Kentucky’s ballot have passed, but write-in candidates have until next month to qualify.
The Jefferson County Board of Education has approved the performance objectives for Superintendent Donna Hargens’s evaluation, but measuring student performance may still be a challenge.The board approved the criteria at Monday night's board meeting. It measures three major performance objectives, including implementation of the new strategic plan, continuation assessing and organizing management and improving student achievement.Hargens received a positive first year review earlier this year for her work reorganize her central office and for effectively managing the elementary schools student assignment plan.Board member Linda Duncan said because Kentucky’s new accountability system was implemented just last year, benchmarks for student performance are still being determined.“It’s still going to be a challenge with how we incorporate student achievement in it, that’s going to be a challenge. But we have some other indicators that we’re going to look at," she said.The district will look toward college-and-career ready standards and graduation rates to help determine student achievement under Hargens' watch.Hargens told WFPL she is confident the strategic plan, called Vision 2015, is manageable. The 36-goal plan covers student achievement, resource and communication objectives.